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As long as Drew Brees is in, he'll be playing to win Sunday for New Orleans Saints

'Whoever is out there, whenever they're out there, we're playing to win'

Drew Brees wouldn't definitively tip his hand on if he's playing in the regular-season finale Sunday against Carolina and, if so, how long he would direct the New Orleans Saints offense.

But what he made crystal clear was that the Saints (13-2) – with the No. 1 seed in the NFC secured – wouldn't simply be making a curtain call in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"You play to win," Brees said. "You play fast, you play with instincts. If I'm out there, I'm playing – playing to win, playing to move the ball, playing to score points and then, when it's time to come out, it's time to come out."

The expectation is that Brees, the NFL's all-time passing yards leader who is eight yards short of hitting the 4,000-yard mark for the 13th consecutive season – which would extend his NFL record – won't play for long before he gives way to Teddy Bridgewater.

But Brees also knows that whether or not he's on the field, there will be objectives the Saints will look to meet. New Orleans can set a franchise record with its 14th regular-season victory Sunday, while also attempting to rest some key players.

"You try to win them all," Brees said. "But is the goal to win the most games in franchise history in the regular season, or is the goal to put ourselves in the best position come playoff time? I think we know the answer to that question.

"None of us know how this is going to play out on Sunday (in terms of playing time). Of course, I think efforts are going to be made to rest guys where appropriate, and make sure they are as healthy as they can be for when we're playing for keeps. We can't move up or down in regards to our playoff position at this point. We're where we want to be. But we are going to play to win. So whoever is out there, whenever they're out there, we're playing to win. To get 14 wins would be significant."

Coach Sean Payton said as much Wednesday: Winning will be the priority regardless of who is on the field. And, too, the Saints only will be able to rest a limited number of players because they only have 46 players available on gameday.

"No. 1, it's our job," Payton said. "We have a chance to win more games in the regular season than any team in Saints history. No. 2, it is not like when you are playing in the preseason (when) you have 90 players and you begin to look at how you want to sit all these different players. You can't do that.

"You have 46 on gameday (in the regular season) coming out of your 53. Any time you line up to play and any time we prepare to play, there's really only one way to go about doing that. I think that there's a lot at stake relative to some individuals, but also the evaluation process and then also as a team being able to hit that 14th win. I think that that's a lot."

Brees said there's no concern that rust would factor in for Saints players who are able to rest, then have a bye week.

He's one of the few remaining Saints from the Super Bowl team of 2009. Then, New Orleans won its first 13 games, lost the next two but gained the No. 1 seed during that time, and lost the regular-season finale at Carolina.

"I certainly remember that," he said. "I remember us losing (games) 14, 15, and then going into (game) 16 we find out we secured the 1 seed. And then we tried to rest a number of guys at Carolina. But it was one of those where, what's most important? Is it to play this game, or is it to prepare ourselves to be the best that we can be when the playoffs arrive? And that is the answer. You want to be the best that you can be when the playoffs arrive.

"So I don't think we're worried about killing momentum or anything else because we're not goofing around in practice. We're taking practice serious, we're getting the work done that we need to get done, we're going through the process, we're going through our routine preparing ourselves to play. However that shakes out is what we'll be ready for."

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